LGBT folk share their recollections.
Growing up in a modest early 20th century house in my hometown back in N.C. meant one thing for sure — we weren’t the richest folks in town.
Despite the fact we didn’t always have the money to get every toy I saw or the hottest new car on the market — we did have a large extended family that enjoyed spending time together.
In the early years when my sisters and I were still kids, the family would visit my grandparents in Rutherfordton, N.C., (the natives just skip right over those three syllables in the middle and call it “Ruv-ton”) for the annual Thanksgiving dinner.
My grandparents lived in a big old farm house that seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. I can still recall riding up a dirt road from a state road to get to their long driveway. The minute the wheels of my dad’s Ford Falcon station wagon touched the drive a hoard of mixed-breed mutts would charge down to meet us, barking happily as if to announce to my grandparents that visitors had arrived.
The same scene would play itself out again multiple times as aunts and uncles would arrive with cousins and other family members.
By the time a crew of 25 or so had gathered, it was time to eat. My grandmother — who was very much the portrait of an elderly woman from the American ’30s (sturdy shoes, a house dress, small round frame glasses, gray hair in a bun) — emerged from the kitchen. Her face was wet with sweat from cooking over the hot stove and the resulting steam had caused multiple wisps of gray hair to loosen themselves from the otherwise tightly bobby-pinned bun.
“Are you folks ready for some Thanksgiving Dinner?” She would ask in her warm, grandmotherly voice.
Every year she would prepare the same thing: a ham, a turkey, endless selections of beans: peas, green beans, pinto beans and lima beans (beans were not a favorite of mine at this point in time — especially limas and green peas), stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (jellied and shaped like a can), macaroni and cheese and baskets and baskets of dinner rolls.
The adults would serve themselves and all gather at the large formal table in the dining room, while the children were served by my grandmother personally at smaller tables she had sat up in the den.
For the years I can recall, and before she became too frail for big family gatherings, this was the standard procedure.
I would always end up at the same seat at the same little table. And it was always the table with the strange little drawer. So perfect for putting things in. So odd that I was always so carefully guided to that place.
“You sit here,” she would say, pointing to the place I knew she would. Then she would place my two sisters and a cousin at the three other available seats around the small, square table.
A few minutes later she would re-emerge from the kitchen, plates loaded up with all of the aforementioned items and invariably a heaping helping of limas or green peas. She always looked me directly in the eye and smiled whimsically as she placed the plate in front of me. “Be sure you eat all of that young man. You’re too skinny!”
I’m not exactly sure when it all began, but at some point a few years prior — in an effort to escape the foul tasting limas or green peas — I had scooped the offending offering into the tiny drawer in front of me.
Somewhere along the way I think it became a game for my grandmother. I can only imagine the first time it happened she was horrified to find a drawer of cast off lima beans.
At first she was probably unsure as to whom the culprit actually was — but after the second year, I’m sure it became obvious.
Why would she place me at the same seat each year? The beans were always gone from the previous visit. There were never any moldy or petrified bipodal seeds to be found in the empty drawer. Clearly, someone must have cleaned them out. That someone could only have been her. I envisioned in my head the conversation she and my grandfather might have had the night before.
“You know Bill and Dot will be down tomorrow with the kids?” She’d ask.
“Yes. And a bunch of other screaming little monsters,” my grandfather would moan. “We’re getting a might too old for this, don’t you think?”
“Don’t be silly,” she’d chuckle.
“Besides, I always get a bit of a laugh out of making that jumpy little boy of theirs put his lima beans in the drawer again.”
Did she know? How could she not? Was she playing with me?
Regrettably, I never found out the answer to the question. A few years later my grandfather died and shortly after that grandmother had a stroke — which landed her in a care facility. We went to visit her a few times, but she never really did seem to recognize any of the grandchildren.
For the most part — I recall her as a quiet and serious, well-mannered woman. It’s difficult for me to picture her playing head games for a chuckle.
But it makes me laugh to think she probably had the same twisted sense of humor I do today. Every year around this time I can’t help but think of those days so long ago — and my grandmother: a little old woman who was messin’ with my head on Thanksgiving Day.
David Aaron Moore is the editor of Georgia Voice.